Tibet, Vajradhara alone – (13)

Circa 16th century, Tibet, Vajradhara, gilt bronze (copper alloy) with stones, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

This buddha has a three-tier chignon topped with a half-vajra finial. He wears a silk shawl with a lotus motif and an embroidered hem, even the back of his necklace and belt are inlaid with turquoise. The rim of the lotus base is decorated with a chased floral patter except at the back, where an inscription in Tibetan can be seen.

16th century, Tibet, Vajradhara, bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

The personal touch of the artist is expressed here through the loops of the celestial scarf shaped like sprouting lotuses.

16th century, Tibet, Vajradhara, brass with turquoise and paint, private collection, photo by Bonham’s.

On this Chinese-style sculpture with voluminous drapin, red paint has been used for the ribbon and side bows of the crown.

16th century, Tibet, Vajradhara, brass, private collection, photo by Navin Kumar.

16th century, Tibet, Vajradhara, copper alloy with silver and copper inlaid eyes, private collection, photo by Castor Hara.

16th century, Tibet, Vajradhara, gilt bronze, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

15th-16th century, Tibet, Vajradhara, gilt bronze with stones, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

16th-17th century, Tibet, Vajradhara, gilt bronze (copper alloy with traces of gilding), private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.Note the long strands of individually shaped curls that come half way down the forearm of this dynamic figure.

18th century, Tibet, Vajradhara, gilt bronze, private collection, photo by Galerie Zacke.

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Tibet, Mahakala – various forms (2)

15th-16th century, Tibet, Mahakala, bronze (brass) with silver-inlaid eyes, private collection, photo by Lempertz.

Mahakala in his panjarnata form, with one head and two hands, in which he holds a skull cup and flaying knife while supporting a danda stick across his arms, squatting on Ganapati, adorned with a garland of severed heads, a snake worn as a sacred thread, snake and bone ornaments, and wearing a tiger skin loin cloth. 

15th-16th century, Tibet, Mahakala, bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

In his four-arm (chaturbhuja) form, seated at ease on a lotus base, the main hands holding a skull cup and flaying knife before his heart, the others a flaming sword and another (missing) implement.

14th-15th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Polyauction.

When the main hands are at heart level, the upper left hand usually holds a staff with a horizontal vajra sceptre across it, or a trident as above.

18th century, tibet, Mahakala, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Cambi Casa d’Aste.

Tibetan sculptures of his six-arm (shadbhuja) form are often late Chinese-style ones, with billowing scarf and spiky flaming hair standing on his head, sharp finger tips, bushy eyebrows and beard. In most cases the main hands hold a skull cup and a flaying knife. He wears a tiger skin loin cloth and sometimes an elephant hide over his back.

18th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt bronze (copper alloy) with pigments, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

His upper hands hold a rosary of skulls and a trident or a staff, the remaining hands hold a drum and noose.

Circa 18th century, Tibet (or Sino-Tibetan?), Mahakala, gilt bronze (copper alloy), at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

He stands on elephant-headed Ganapati.

15th century (or later?), Tibet, Mahakala, white shadbhuja form, gilt copper with stone inlay, private collection, photo from the Huntington Archive.

In his white form (with a white body on paintings) he stands with his legs straight on two elephant-headed victims, pressing a wish-granting jewel against his heart with his main right hand, the left one sustaining a skull cup with a vase filled with jewels. The remaining right hands hold a flaying knife and a drum, the left hands hold a trident and a hook (elephant goad).

18th century, Tibet, Cintamani Mahakala, parcel-gilt bronze with pigments and turquoise, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

The same form (sita cintamani Mahakala = ‘White Mahakala holder of jewels’), with a skull cup full of gems.

17th century, Tibet, Mahakala, bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Drouot.

The way he sits suggests that this may be the vyaghra vahana (‘riding a tiger’) form, who holds a skull cup in his left hand and a stick tipped with a jewel (the latter missing here) in the other.

18th century, Tibet, Mahakala (labelled Yama), gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

In his three-head, six-hand, six-leg form all his arms are stretched out. The missing attributes are probably a bow, an arrow, a vajra sceptre, the remaining hands do symbolic gestures.

 

Tibet, various female deities (4)

12th century, Tibet, female, bronze (copper alloy), Navin Kumar collection, photo on Himalayan Art Resources.

This female deity holds a ritual water pot in both hands and there is another on the plinth of the lotus base, together with a small kneeling figure, possibly the donor.

13th-14th century, Tibet, Vajratara, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Rarely seen in Tibet in the form of sculpture, Vajratara/Vajritara normally has one head with three eyes and 4 to 8 hands, in which she holds a vajra sceptre, a noose, an arrow, a conch shell, in her right hands, a bow, another arrow (or vice-versa), a lotus and a hook (broken here). The above has three heads topped with a vajra finial.

14th-15th century, Tibet, Pancha Raksha deity, gilt metal with stone inlay, private collection, photo by Koller.

Out of the five Pancha Raksha deities, one of them, Pratisara, has eight hands in which she holds most of these attributes but she normally has three heads, this one only has one. Her main hands are ‘turning the wheel of dharma‘ and hold the stem of two lotuses; the remaining left hands hold a bow, a stem?, a ritual water pot, the remaining right hands hold an arrow and a wheel, the lower one displays knowledge.

16th century, Tibet, Tara, bronze (brass), private collection, photo by Africasia.

Seated with a leg pendent and her right foot on a lotus, this female character holds a triple gem in her right hand.

Late 16th century, Tibet, Amdo, Sarasvati, painted clay, at the Kumbum of Taer monastery, Xining, published in Empire of Emptiness by Patricia Ann Berger.

Sarasvati, goddess of the arts and speech, with one head and two hands, playing the vina.

 

 

 

 

Tibet, Hevajra (5)

One of the four Guhyasamaja entities, Shri Hevajra has a bodhisattva appearance with a mixture of peaceful and wrathful ornaments and attributes.

Undated (circa 13th century), Tibet, Hevajra, brass, private collection, photo on Himalayan Art Resources.

In his sahaja heruka form, he has one head with three eyes, two hands in which he holds a vajra sceptre and a skull cup, two legs, often standing on one or two victims. He wears a garland of severed heads and normally has a ritual staff in the crook of his left arm.

This Pala-style figure wears a tiger skin loin cloth that fits tightly like a pair of shorts, in the Indian fashion, held in place with a festooned belt.

Undated, Tibet, Heruka Hevajra, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo on Himalayan Art Resources.

A protector against the demons (maras), heruka Hevajra always stands alone, one foot on one or several victims the other in the air (like a dakini), his hair tied in a mitre-like bunch, holding a vajra sceptre in his right hand and a skull cup in the other. The above does a pointing gesture with his left hand and has also been described as a 10th century Nepalese sculpture of Vajrapani, who normally stands on both feet. He wears a tiger skin loin cloth, snake adornments and a low tiara.

Circa 17th century, Tibet, Hevajra (labelled Vajradaka), bronze, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (USA).

He normally has a ritual staff propped against his left arm, often missing from sculptures, and may wear a skull crown, bone jewellery, a garland of severed heads.

16th or 17th century, (originally labelled 13th-14th century), Guhyasamaja Hevajra, Tibet, copper alloy with copper and silver inlay and pigments, at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York (USA).

Always in embrace with Nairatmya, Guhyasamaja Hevajra has 8 heads, each with three eyes, 16 hands in which he holds skull cups containing animals and human figures, 4 legs, in a dancing posture, two of his feet trampling four victims (Hindu gods).

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The heads may be stacked (4+3+1) or arranged in a circle of 4 at the front and 4 at the back, or 7+1 on top as is the case here. There is an effigy of Akshobhya in his headdress.

Circa 15th century, Tibet, Hevajra, bronze (brass) with silver inlay and pigments, private collection, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

Nairatmya has one head with three eyes, two legs and two hands, in which she holds a flaying knife and a skull cup. She wears a bone apron.

Possibly 15th century, Tibet, Hevajra, gilt bronze (copper alloy), at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg (Russia).

This is an example of stacked heads. According to textual sources, the skull cups in his right hands contain a horse, a donkey, a bull, a camel, a man, a sharabha, a cat or an owl, and an elephant in the main right hand.

16th century, Tibet, Hevajra and consort, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by 25 Blythe Road.

The skull cups in his left hands contain the god of water, the god of fire, the god of art, the god of the Moon, the god of the Sun, Yama, the god of wealth, and the god of Earth in the main hand.

17th century, Tibet, Hevajra, wood, at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York (USA).

 

 

Tibet, Wrathful Vajrapani with bell

12th-13th century, Tibet, Vajrapani, Nilambadhara, brass with silver inlay, private collection, photo by Marcel Nies.

In one of his most common forms, wrathful Vajrapani brandishes his main attribute and presses a bell against his left side. He is adorned with the eight snake ornaments (no skull crown and no garland of severed heads) and usually treads on an elephant-headed demon lying on snakes (Bhut Aparajita). The above wears a foliate crown, large earrings and snakes, his tiger skin loin cloth is held in place with a cloth belt. The petals on the pedestal are engraved rather than sculpted, which helps date the piece.

14th-15th century, Tibet, Vajrapani, gilt copper alloy with stones, private collection, photo by Hayman Himalayan Art.

A similar appearance, with two figures on the pedestal, who represent ego and ignorance.

Circa 16th century, Tibet, Vajrapani, black stone, private collection, photo by Renaud Montméat.

In theory, he never wears a skull crown but he may have a garuda in his headdress. This one wears a five-skull tiara and there is a garuda at the top of the arch behind him.

17th-18th century, Tibet, Vajrapani, bronze with cold gold and pigments, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

The bell is often held upside-down.

 

 

 

 

Tibet, Yellow Jambhala (14)

Circa 12th century, Tibet, Jambhala, brass, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

Yellow Jambhala always sits at ease and normally holds a mongoose in his left hand and a citron in the other.

The above is described as holding a gem. He wears a foliate crown and bulky jewellery, a long garment and a thin sash across his chest, both incised with a geometrical motif. His right foot rests on a vase of abundance.

12th-13th century (or later?), Tibet, Jambhala, gilt copper, private collection, photo by Koller.

He is always peaceful, with a yaksha appearance (short limbs, big belly, bulging eyes) and has a yellow body on paintings. Occasionally his right foot is on a lotus shooting from the base.

He is seldom shown with a mahasiddha hair style as above.

12th-14th century, Nepal or Tibet, brass, Yellow Jambhala, private collection.

The plinth with irregular scrolling vines, the V-shaped necklace, the jewelled ornament in his mitre-like hair bunch, the rosettes and long wavy ribbons reminiscent of Gilgit are all singular features that point to Tibet, while the shape of the lotus petals corresponds to the (circa) 12th century.

14th century, Tibet, Jambhala, bronze, private collection, photo by Polyauction.

Here, the right foot is placed on a long-life vase. His mongoose vomits strings of jewels.

15th century, Tibet, Jambhala (labelled Vaishravana), bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Nagel.

Another specimen with a lotus under his right foot, his shoulders covered with a silk shawl. A few jewels from the mongoose’s mouth have piled up on the base.

18th century, Tibet, Jambhala, (labelled Kubera), gilt copper alloy, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Late Chinese-style works often depict him with sharp facial features, bushy eyebrows and a curly beard that depart from his usual friendly and benevolent, almost child-like appearance.

 

 

Tibet, Green Tara (14)

13th century, Tibet, Tara, gilt copper , is or was at the gTsug Lakhang, published by Ulrich von Schroeder, photo on Himalayan Art Resources.

This elegant figure with Pala-style shapes and proportions sits on a brocaded cushion over a double lotus base.

She wears a broad sash across her chest and a long garment decorated with alternate bands of flowers and geometrical motifs. A lotus inside a diamond is incised in the palm of her hands.

The face is painted with cold gold and pigments, the hair with lapis lazuli powder.

13th century, Tibet, Tara, gilt copper with cold gold and pigments, is or was at the gTsug Lakhang, published by Ulrich von Schroeder, photo on Himalayan Art Resources.

Here she wears no sash and her garment is decorated with bands of stippled lotuses.

15th century, Tibet, Green Tara of the Sandalwood Forest, bronze (brass), at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York (USA).

As with Pala Indian works, the above has silver-inlaid eyes and urna and wears a low tiara. A hair ornament adorns her chignon.

15th century, Tibet, Tara, gilt bronze and stone inlay, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

The short legs and oval chin are reminiscent of a group of gilt copper Nepalese works made during the Malla period. A celestial scarf cleverly forms a halo that offsets her low tiara made of five jewelled panels and a silver beaded rim. All her jewellery is made of two rows of beading and stone-inlaid elements. The hem of her garment is also decorated with beading.

Undated (15th-16th century?), Tibet, Tara, gilt bronze (copper alloy) with turquoise inlay, at the Tibet House Museum in New Delhi (India), photo on Himalayan Art Resources.

Different facial features but same leg proportions, garment with a beaded hem and accessories with beading and stones (only turquoise this time).  Apart from the usual cold gold and pigments for the face and hair, red paint has been used for the rim of her crown.

Circa 15th century, Tibet, Tara, gilt copper alloy with turquoise and coral inlay, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

Tibetan art excels at marrying the Newari style and techniques with Chinese-style draping and accessories …

while adding its own specific features, such as the  squarish face and the use of coral and turquoise cabochons.

16th century, Tibet, Tara, bronze (copper alloy) with cold gold and pigments, at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg (Russia).

This Tara’s elongated chignon is topped with the flame of enlightenment.